HC Deb 03 February 1860 vol 156 cc513-7

said, he rose to call the attention of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to certain statements in The Times newspaper of Jan. 24, in the letters of its "Special Correspondent," from the seat of war on the coast of Morocco, as to alleged or reported misconduct on the part of Mr. Drummond Hay, her Majesty's Consul at Tangier. He should have been quite content to ask the Question of which he had given notice in the ordinary way, but it was absolutely necessary that it should be rendered clear and intelligible, not only in justice to the gentleman whose name was principally involved, but to satisfy those who wished to maintain friendly relations between this country and Spain. Certain papers had been laid upon the table, and by them it would be found that Her Majesty's Government had watched with the greatest jealousy—almost apprehension—the conduct pursued by Spain towards Morocco, and that the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office had particularly instructed our Minister at Madrid, Mr. Buchanan, to demand explanations, on the part of our Government, of the Government of Spain upon two material points, the one was as to the time during which the Spanish Government would occupy Tangier in case their troops should obtain possession of that town, and the other was whether Spain would endeavour to make and retain any new acquisitions of territory on the shores of Morocco. He thought the noble Lord had properly discharged his duty in making those inquiries, and demanding those assurances. He would only trouble the House with two short extracts, which would satisfy them—and he was sure that the noble Lord was already satisfied—that the conduct of Spain towards this country was characterized by a spirit of loyalty and conciliation. Writing to Mr. Buchanan on the 15th of October the Foreign Secretary said:— Senor Collantes, in his reply of the 6th of October states that when once the treaty of peace which should put an end to the hostilities between Spain and Morocco should be ratified, the questions now existing being settled favourably, and therefore definitely, the Spanish Government, in fulfilment of their intentions, would not continue in the occupation of that fortress [Tangier], in the supposition that they should have found themselves obliged to establish themselves there in order to secure the favourable issue of their operations. You will state to M. Collantes that Her Majesty's Government accept with pleasure this assurance, as conveying the declaration which, by my despatch of the 22nd of September, you were instructed to ask for. And Senor Collantes, writing from Madrid on the 21st of October, used these words:— The Government of the Queen my Sovereign, who have given so many and such marked proofs of their conciliatory and upright spirit in the different incidents which have sprung from the question with Morocco, will not vary the intention, which they had formed from the beginning of that question, not to occupy any point on the Straits whose position could afford to Spain a superiority dangerous to the navigation. In this matter their ideas have been always so disinterested and loyal that they cannot believe that any doubt can have been conceived with regard to them. No answer to this despatch appeared in the papers; but its language was so fair and so loyal that the noble Lord, if he did send any answer, could not but have given it in the same terms as before, and expressed his entire satisfaction. Seeing, therefore, that Spain had done all in her power to disarm the suspicions and satisfy the apprehensions of our Government, it would be conceded that the least to be expected from our Government was that it should avoid even the semblance of hostility or unfairness towards Spain, either in its diplomatic language or in the acts of its agents in Morocco; and if any belief existed in the minds of the Spaniards that they or their agents had not acted with perfect fairness and impartiality the British Government ought to be very glad of an opportunity of removing it. Such an opportunity he would now give to the noble Lord by reading an extract from a letter of the Special Correspondent of The Times at the seat of War in Morocco, published in that paper on the 24th of January, This was the extract:— The Spaniards persist in complaining bitterly of Mr. Drummond Hay, to whom they impute divers practices unfavourable to their cause. He is accused of supplying the Moors with ammunition, of assisting them with his counsels, of superintending (himself in a Moorish costume) certain of their preparations. It is further stated that he has had to do with the engagement of two English engineers, who construct military works. The vessels which convey cattle from Tangier to Gibraltar return thence with powder and other warlike stores. It was by his direction that the Moorish batteries at San Martin aimed the other day at the screws of the Spanish steamers employed in bombarding them. If they did not succeed in hitting them it was their fault, not that of the British Consul at Tangier. Mr. Hay also draws up the Emperor's diplomatic documents addressed to foreign Powers. Of the truth or falsehood of the above charges, of all or any of them, I know nothing whatever.…. But it is well to let you know of the accusations in question, because they are not mere matters of gossip and camp talk, but are seriously brought forward and maintained by persons in responsible and important positions here, who declare that they know them to be true, and give it to be understood that they are derived from trustworthy agents of the Spanish Government; also, because I am not without reasons to believe that the information in question, whether true or false, obtains credit from the Government. The exasperation felt against Mr. Hay is great, and if the Spaniards get to Tangier I would advise him on their approach to leave that place. It has been insinuated in some quarters that in acting as he is said to have done, and to be doing, he is only obeying the orders of his superiors; but a more general belief, or at least the one I most frequently hear expressed here, is that he is merely pursuing the bent of his inclinations, and that his Government either does not know of or does not heed his conduct. Of the truth or falsehood of these charges he had no means of judging; but it appeared that these rumours had obtained credit with the Spanish Government, and that there was a strong feeling of exasperation against England in high quarters in that country. That the charges were grave enough to demand a prompt explanation from the British Government, he ventured to think the House would admit. If they were unfounded Mr. Hay ought to feel indebted to the Special Correspondent of The Times for giving him an opportunity of denying the charge; but if any of them were true the Government had no other course to pursue but to express at once in the strongest terms their indignation at and repudiation of such conduct, and at once to dismiss from their service an individual who had so unworthily betrayed the trust confided to him. Before sitting down he could not refrain from expressing his warm sympathy with that gallant nation which had once been the strongest bulwark of Christendom against the Mahomedan, and he rejoiced to see that in this contest with the Moors—whatever might have been the origin of it—she was displaying her old historic valour and the lofty and enthusiastic spirit which had formerly distinguished her as a nation in bygone times. He wished therefore, to ask, whether any facts had come to the knowledge of the Government which would justify the belief that the British consul had in any way violated that strict neutrality which should be maintained by the official representative of this country in relation to both of the belligerent powers, Spain and Morocco.


said, that as he was in possession of certain information derived from very good authority, which he should be happy to show any Gentleman who desired to see it, he hoped the House would allow him to interfere for a few moments between them and the answer to the Question of the hon. Member for the purpose of stating one or two facts which would place Mr. Hay's conduct in a different light from that in which it was represented by the extract just read by the hon. Gentleman. With regard to Mr. Hay's partiality, that gentleman had strongly urged upon the Moorish Government the necessity, not to say the propriety, of sparing the Spanish prisoners, and through his interference the Moorish authorities had offered a price of £3 for each living Spaniard brought in, whereas the price formerly given was £1 for each head. Through his exertions the lives of a number of Spanish prisoners had been spared. It was through his intervention that the families of Jews and Spaniards had been permitted to depart unmolested from Morocco with their property; and in consequence of his having remained on the spot, with the sanction of the British and Spanish Governments, the houses of the persons who had so left were protected and the Roman Catholic chapel was secured from outrage. As illustration of the good effects which had resulted from the presence of Mr. Hay, he might mention that a Moor had been flogged round the town for attempting to enter a house forcibly, and that in December last, when a French vessel was wrecked some distance down the coast, that gentleman most promptly sent the authorities to the spot, had the mariners rescued from the violence of the natives, and sent them to the French Admiral and Consul at Gibraltar. These were facts which he believed to be authentic, and he had felt it his duty not to withhold them from the House when the character of an absent official appeared to be impugned—at least, when it had been made the object outside that House of malignant aspersions.